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Case Studies

Davos on world’s risks

Climate action failure, extreme weather events, and biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse are ranked the top three most severe risks for the world over the next decade. That’s according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022.

On ‘digital distress’ and cyber vulnerabilities, which merits a chapter in the report, it says: “As society continues to migrate into the digital world, the threat of cybercrime looms large, routinely costing organisations tens — even hundreds — of millions of dollars. The costs are not just financial: critical infrastructure, societal cohesion and mental well-being are also in jeopardy.”

Less than a sixth, a bare 16pc, of respondents to a Global Risks Perception Survey were ‘optimistic’ or ‘positive’ about the outlook for the world. The report suggests that vulnerabilities are inherent in dependency on complex, and fragmenting, technologies ‘often characterised by decentralisation and lack of structured guardrails or sophisticated on-boarding infrastructure’. In other words, cyber access, or any, controls are lacking.

It’s not all woe, however. A final chapter on ‘refreshing resilience’ suggests that the lessons of covid – which ‘will likely leave further complex problems in its wake’ – and a whole of society response to the pandemic can be applied. On covid vaccination, the report says that ‘national resilience strategies for future pandemics may require anticipation of some level of distrust and defiance of restrictions and interventions aimed at protecting vulnerable population segments’.

The report advocates a ‘balanced path’ arguing for allocating risk ‘in a way that means the taxpayer does not ultimately pay up in every crisis nor do governments sweep risks off the public balance sheet onto the private sector’ the report calls for ‘more transparent, analysis-led discussions’. To regulate for resilience, you must know what assets and systems are out there; including, hidden, digital ones, for ‘the plausible near-simultaneous failure of several providers could have negative far-reaching consequences’. And data has to be shared, for ‘preemptive resilience building and sharper crisis management’.

And the report sees opportunities. Large firms ‘already look intensively at business interruption risks across supply chains, managed service providers, utilities and customers with a view to softening the impact of bottlenecks and outages; smaller firms could do the same’. Nationally important companies in the same field worked with
each other where permitted during the pandemic; this could be best practice for future crises. Central and local governments could do more to support local resilience forums.

About the report

The 17th edition of the Global Risks Report identifies tensions that will result from a divergent recovery. Rapidly and slowly recovering countries alike will need to navigate economic and societal gaps to restore social cohesion, boost employment and thrive. The pandemic’s cascading impacts are impeding the visibility of emerging challenges, including climate transition disorder, increased cyber vulnerabilities, greater barriers to international mobility, and crowding and competition in space. Global divisions risk deepening at a time when societies and the international community urgently need to collaborate to check COVID-19 and heal its scars, the report warns.

It’s by the Swiss forum (that pre-covid famously arranged for the world’s leading figures to meet each January in Davos) with firms Marsh McLennan, SK Group and Zurich Insurance Group. Carolina Klint, Managing Director, Marsh; and Peter Giger, Group Chief Risk Officer, Zurich Insurance Group took part in the report’s online launch. Visit


Peter Stelzhammer, co-founder of AV-Comparatives says: “Even though ransomware is on the rise and is hyped in the media, we should not forget about the 95pc of other threats, which are just as dangerous as ransomware threats. These may be less visible but can lead to data breaches or Zombie systems, waiting for an outbreak to compromise IT systems. According to IBM, data breach costs rose from $3.86 million to $4.24 million. This increased during times of WFH and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and has meant that the danger of an incident has become more likely.

“In our internal studies, we have seen that educating users has not been very effective. Attacks are too sophisticated to be detected by someone outside of the security team(s) – meaning it falls to the SecOps Team to prevent threats reaching the system of the end-user. Often, cybersecurity is an afterthought that is neglected. This must change. IT Security should be a conversation across all business units: The survival of your company could depend on it.”

And Sridhar Iyengar, MD for Zoho Europe says: “Digital tool and online service usage decisions have become more complex in recent years following the rise of cyber crime, data privacy and adjunct surveillance. The acceleration of digital tools in the pandemic has increased risk in these areas further. It is great to see these trends recognised as priority concerns by the World Economic Forum in its Global Risk Report, published this week and we welcome the amplification it creates around these issues. It is imperative that businesses and consumers increase their awareness of these issues to tackle them accordingly.

“As detailed in the report, when it comes to data privacy, many businesses still perpetrate data harvesting tactics, directly or indirectly, by associating with third party applications that steal user information to sell-on illegally. A small fraction of consumers are already becoming privy to this illicit activity, and businesses which use it not only risk breaking the law, but also risk a severely damaged reputation further down the line.

“Trust in technology is not just relevant to data usage policies either, and over the next few years we will see more consumers than ever before valuing trust as a key factor in deciding what technology and services they use. Trust must be built between organisations, staff and customers, and this can be achieved, in part, with a positive and transparent data usage policy. Businesses that do rely on the support of external services must ensure they have a full understanding of the practices used on their web properties and ensure compliance with the law and their own ideals.”

For the 117-page report download from


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